Celebration of Discipline

I bet some of you are wondering about this post given the title. Perhaps you’re expecting me to talk about the values of obedience to those who might be our spiritual parents and guides. And I think that is an important aspect of the Christian life; disciplining the body, the mind, and the passions. However, I’d like to talk about something else here.

Um, not that either. Sorry John Wayne.

I’m talking about the discipline of commitment. More specifically, the commitment to one teaching. This may sound odd to modern ears, especially given the fact that with the internet we have a thousand different spiritual teachings at our fingertips. Why wouldn’t we want to pick-and-choose what “works for us.” Or so the saying goes. Perhaps we (wherever we may be culturally) have simply missed out on something for all these years. Truth becomes a matter of pragmatism.

But if we aren’t engaging with a deep commitment to a tradition, then what value do any of the practices hold for us? If we don’t take the history and tradition along with the practice, then aren’t we just focusing on the ego and our own sense of self-satisfaction? Commitment is a discipline. Ask a committed couple and see what they have to say. I guarantee you that it quite often requires discipline.

All too often those who are engaging in some religious practice out of eclecticism pick out the aspects that they like and already agree with. But where’s the discipline in that? How can a spiritual practice lead to any depth if we aren’t willing to sacrifice something of ourselves? Perhaps even our own dearly-held ideas that we are right? Without this commitment to discipline it is our own egos that become the measuring stick of truth.

This doesn’t mean that we should necessarily just blindly bow down to whatever discipline we may find. That’s a good recipe for abuse of all kinds. We shouldn’t be called to check our brains at the door when we delve into a religious tradition. But we are perhaps called to view our own subjectivity from a perspective of skepticism. This is hard. And uncomfortable. It takes discipline.


~ by crossingthebosporus on July 11, 2012.

One Response to “Celebration of Discipline”

  1. Richard Foster has written a fairly well received book with the same title as this post. But without a context, its main premise, that the church has lost appreciation for the disciplines that he details, does lead to a sort of eclecticism. Or it could lead you eventually to a church that lives the disciplines, as I found that the Orthodox Church does.

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